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Archive for February, 2007
As I write this, I am in a taxi, on the way to Delhi airport. I have slept for half the journey, so it is not as painful as I had expected.
The work I have been dreading is designed and the dye is cast. Two collections of clothes designed in two months. I have to confess that it has been extremely stressful. More so before I arrived for this second trip than since being here, although there have been some huge moments here. But now I feel tired and more than a little apprehensive of the future. I think that is why I slept, to stop the voices in my head asking me if I really was totally crazy, or what? But the path feels inexorable. Is that just my excuse of the reality of my experience? Will I ruin us all or is this going to be the making of us? What is the famous adage? DonÄôt quit before the miracle.
As well as doing the clothes, I have made some SadhusÄô necklaces. Sadhus are wandering Holy men and they always seem to have rather mystical necklaces that I covert in a deeply unspiritual way. I have, on several occasions, photographed these beauties and now have committed myself to several different ones. I finally found a jeweller that is interesting to work with. He has been quite surprising during this visit. Not only because he loves beautiful women and confesses to being a jeweller mainly because of that love, but also because he has a good eye and makes pieces quite different to the usual wares.
I did rather go into hiding on this trip, I must confess. I barely called anyone I knew here. Apart from a couple of people I kept totally to myself. I even hid from two stores. Hid does not aptly describe it, but I made sure I was not seen. I hate being regaled with dinner invitations to one family house in particular. I have only been there once and on that occasion we went to sit at the kitchen table to eat and a large, I kid you not; rat slowly meandered off the table and hid being a picture. I know we are never more than 3 feet from these delights, but a rat twitching itÄôs tail behind a picture during the meal, with me knowing that itÄôs wee has just been wiped off the table with a dirty cloth, my plate then wiped with the same clothÄ¶Ä¶. House cooking.
Gosh, I am not being so kind today. I suppose it is an overdose of hooting, shouting, dirt, stress and meals alone.
I was spoilt yesterday by being taken out to dinner by two Kashmiri gentlemen. We sat in the perfumed gardens of the Rambhag Palace and ate really good pasta. It was a treat. I am sure I talked far too esoterically, but the joy of company overtook me! Anyway they were delightful and happen to sell the most delicious cashmere shawls. One can never have too many shawls. Something I discovered years agoÄ¶.
Delhi airport is never one of my favourite places. I am not sure if it is the airport that is totally to blame or the state that I am in when I get there each time. Heathrow is always a place of expectation and excitement mingled with the stress of being crammed into a tube and being helpless for x number of hours until the tube is opened and we all spill out to resume our lives again. But Delhi, it is all over, the adventure has been had, normalcy of experience is looming and the long wait, which include the stuffed tube experience, is a bit of a let down.
I do so look forward to seeing the children. Gosh I missed them. Partly because we had all been there together and it was so different without them.
I must confess to peaking on India at the moment. I have had it up to here, making a mark in the air about an inch above my eyebrows. The is nothing in particular to have made me peak so thoroughly, except just the relentlessness of the experiences and the desire for a conversation where I am not avowedly divine just because I am vegetarian, donÄôt eat eggs and can chant mantra. It makes me so loathe to show my other, or slightly more western side in case they are totally shocked and then donÄôt like me. I really do find myself exhausting. I think it is probably that, rather than India that is grinding me down.
How to rise back to my previous level of existence? This is the question. One cannot be human anywhere, but in private, I find. Frankly one can do anything, but showing tears in India is just not done. And it is all that I feel like doing today.
But I am resolute. I will not. Although the man I am working with this afternoon suddenly asked me if I was happy with my life. It left me breathless for a moment, struggling to stop my eyes smarting. I succeeded and told him that I was fine most of the time, but that I thought life is about learning to be fine all of the time, no matter what the experience. He nodded and said that he was happy but his wife was not. They had lost their 5 year old son a few years ago and she was still finding it painful. My worst nightmare.
So my day today is spent attempting to master my emotions. Truthfully, it is my least favourite state of being, but when I look back over the last few years, I spend less and less time in this state, and more and more time in acceptance, so there is progress.
Now I am sitting in the Rambhag Hotel Restaurant. This is luxury. Total peace and stillness, sweeping lawns, gloved waiters, although the one that just served me had his index finger sticking out of a hole in his. It is slightly less than elegant. I wonder what he did to make the holeÄ¶. I wonÄôt go there. Has my mood lifted? Only slightly. I nearly managed an outrageous piece of retail therapy, but I really am turning into a grown up. I resisted. I said no, and walked away. Instead, I have a menu with 5 pages of speciality teas in front of me with prices ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I will have Early Grey, thank you to the naked fingered waiter.
A stoke of brilliance
I have had great fun over the past few days. I love trawling the markets to find what I want, going from shop to shop, looking at craftsmanship and comparing prices and then settling down to long negotiations rising to incredible crescendos as the level of caffeine in the body gets higher and higher.
Yesterday was such a time. I started at 9.30am in the marble carvers street. Bright sunshine, the sewers were being emptied onto the streets so there were cows, dogs, pigs and grubby children picking their way through the piles of steaming rubbish. The endless and relentless sounds of chipping and polishing all being done by hand and the rays of sunlight picking out the clouds of dust emerging from all the blue shop interiors. Why are they all blue?
The first shop is my favourite, I have bought from them before, but yesterday they were not in the mood for me as a wholesaler at all. Silly prices and no co-operation at all. It was fine, in fact, and opened me up to so many other new people. The street is long and Suresh, the driver, and I walked all the way down, buying here and there, imbibing more and more chai, laughing more and more as word spread down the street as to what we were looking for. Last night, in my room, appeared various boxes with shredded paper escaping all over the floor, filled with little marble carvings. Some not so little, but I have avoided unmanageable. If I cannot lift it, I will not buy it. There are some fabulous photos of Gods and Goddesses on the facebook page for me.
The stoke of brilliance came at 4am. I was woken by the electricity coming back on after yet another power cut. The air conditioning unit leaps into life each time with startling noises and then settles into a grumpy silence. I lay awake until the 5am mueddzin, and thought about quilts. I thought about my bed, what I liked and disliked and thought about the laundry. Lying quietly along the wall in my room is a large pile of hand woven cotton. Towels, shawls, cloths and so on. Because they are hand woven they are grubby. A sort of grey film over all along with the marks where they were transported, slid on the floor, etc. I had thought about the dramas of washing them at home and had shrugged and resigned myself to the task. The stroke of brilliance is that the hotel has fabulous sheets and table cloths all glowing white, pressed and wonderful. All the grubby white is now in it’s way to the laundry, the industrial, keep the honkies happy, hotel laundry. Phew.
It was not that late, 11pm, when I returned from dinner with Brigitte, in Amber, but the drive made me aware of how different India is at night. It becomes quite frightening, and I sat in the back of my comfortable Ambassador taxi and mused as to why.
Leaving the house to go home we passed lots of dark shadows where no light could fall, and suddenly, looming out of the blackness was an enormous elephant with a huge branch in it’s mouth. Usually they have cyclists straps on their ankles, if elephants have ankles, but this one did not and it made us jump and swerve wildly. Next a large bull was just standing, ruminating, in the middle of the road. Magnificently profiled against Amber Fort. Down the hill into Jaipur there were just dogs, packs of them running on the road and then we were at the first traffic light in the city, one of those strong yellow ones that changes the colour of everything. Along the side of the road there was a fluffly white dog trotting beside a huge, really huge, black rat. Having recently read Neverwhere by Niel Gaiman I was slightly startled by the site. There was no animosity, no chasing, just travelling companions.
The only lit areas are the shops and traffic lights. Everything else shrinks into darkness, and there are men lying asleep under blankets like shrouds, dotted along the road side. Rickshaw wallah sleep on their rickshaws, precariously balabced on the handle bars and the seat, security guards sleep in chairs, plastic chairs under naked 100 watt bulds, taxi drivers all park their smart white cars together in a huddle and sleep across the double front seat. The whole place shuts down and becomes spooky and scary. One feels as though the bhoots, spirits, lurk in every shadow, curling around the darkness waiting to jump out and scream Boo!
But it did not happen. We had no reason to stop. We just drove sedately past and I thought about what is and what could be and the choices we make that take us to our current life experience.
I have become uncommonly aware of hair dye this week.
I sat musing today, in a shop, looking at the swathe of men around me, (none of them paying me the slightest attention, I promise. I had already paid my bill), and realised that they, without exception, had dyed hair. I went on to try to imagine each of them in the act of actually dyeing their hair, sitting with the cream dripping down their forehead, into their eyes as it trickled froom their eyebrows, and into their mouths from the ends of the moustaches. It did provoke a burst of laughter which I hastily smothered, but it is quite a thing. I think I would say that 98% of Indian males dye their hair. That is a huge number of bottles of dye each week. I wonder if I am in the wrong business.
I was reliably informed, by a dyed, moustachioed male, only a few days ago, that I would be vastly more beautiful if I dyed my own long grey locks. Sweet. I smiled sweetly. I have heard this many times here, in Oh, so many charming and forthright ways that I do not take it personally, nor get upset. I informed him that I felt quite satisfied with my beauty and was not looking to overwhelm any one here.
Irony is lost in translation.
My prosperity meditation is going well. The quotes for the clothes have come in at a good price. My job today is to decide which fabrics, which colours etc. I am not relishing the experience and can think of many other things I could do instead, but it just delays the inevitable. The delight of the inevitable. So I am staying locked in my room for several hours whilst I committ to the numbers, colours and fabrics. It is why I ma here, after all. But during my morning oractice I wished I had help, particularly today, but themn I have wished for help at every stage of this experience, and now I find myself experienced! Wild. I am experienced and there are moments when I feel grown up. They do not last long, I promise. Most of the time I feel like a child pretending, but I have experience. How fab.
Oh, Joy, the first mango of the season was presented on my tea try this morning. I donÄôt for a moment imagine that it was the first mango to be eaten this year, by anyone other than me, but that it was my first mango this year. So delicious. A real treat.
Life goes on. I am going to a fabric warehouse this morning. More life changing decisions. I have taken to reading large amounts of Georgette Heyer novels to distract myself in between big choices. Very relaxing and amusing, she is too. I wish we still dressed, spoke and moved through life as her characters do. Closely followed by the corseted dresses in Pirates of the Caribbean 2, which I watched again last night. I find the way most of us dress so profoundly awful. But I am unable to do any more about it than make a range of very beautiful clothes and hope that it will stir something in people. I certainly and getting stirred! The stress is quite something at times. Yesterday it was 6 hours of yes, no, do it like this, wash it and show me again, lift this, change this, shorter, longer, widerÄ¶Ä¶. All by my self. No one to gainsay me.
When it finally comes over by boat, many months later, then I will really see the consequences of my choices.
I am commissioning some new malas at the same time. I saw the first samples this morning. Really awful. But the joy of being here is that they donÄôt take things personally and will just go and do it again.
I am really aware of the effects of Karma on this trip. The difference in the approach to life between eastern based religious experience and Western based. We take it all so hard. We think, deeply inside ourselves, that we have to be so perfect now. The east does not have this terrible pressure. Dishonesty is not personal, money need not be earned, there are more chances to get it right. Death happens and cows are sacred to some. Goats need jumpers when it is cold and flowers adorn every rock that could even vaguely resemble a God. It is delightful, chaotic and challenging.
The western way is order. Structure, stricture, rules, sin, punishment, censure, vitriol and deadly ambition. I know which way I prefer, but for now, with small children, I am based in the charm of the west.l
It is wedding season in India and last night there were six weddings happening in a 500 meter radius of the hotel. The noise was deafening. Endless fireworks and drumming, and that was before the bride groom turned up at 10.30pm. There, he was heralded with ecstatic dancing from load of young men at each of the weddings. Up on the roof of the Haveli it was a wild sight to see. We could look into the grounds of two party areas. Me and most of the staff were braving the cold wind an kneeling against the low wall watching the festivities. It was great. My favourite was the one directly below my bedroom window. Stadium lights and young men showing all their energy and muscle to the beat of mad drumming by two gypsy men in jeans and dirty shirts. A young gypsy boy was collecting money that the crowd were donating to the married couple because of the dancing. Fireworks and their embers descending all around us whilst the groom made his appearance on a painted elephant which was too high to pass under the high voltage electricity cables. The mahoot was using his driving tool to like the cables and eventually they came to a halt in front of the assembled masses on the street. The rubbish from the party was in a pile under the electricity post and the elephant started madly stuffing paper plates of dhal and gulab jamun into his mouth. The mahoot could not get him to do anything sensible until he had finished and only then would he lower himself to let the groom descend.
They started clearing up at 6am, loads of chattering women all shushing away the monkeys who has arrived for breakfast. I do love India.
I am looking at the final samples today. I have to start the grading process once they are all ready, and this is the next step in my huge learning curve. Then to see Brigitte Singh, the fabulous block printer.
I have always wanted to be able to make my own clothes, and here I am, making them for lots of people. Funny how the world turns and things come around. I remember making clothes for myself when I was 15, denim skirts and tops. I was the height of hippy chic. Not much has changed, thenÄ¶Ä¶
I arrived here a few days ago, in a state of frozen fear. I had been given a very stern talking to by my accountant and felt that I was so scared I had no idea what to do.
Several days later I am finding that I have relaxed somewhat and today, going out with a delightful buyer from a chain of shops in Delhi, I suddenly find my confidence has returned. Sometimes I wonder if it really is confidence or a careening recklessness that overtakes me! Gosh, what an admittance! It is so hard to know how best to proceed with out the shop open, and at the same time we need stock. SO a rock and a hard place comes back. Confidence is everything.
I was planning to go to the Monkey temple today, but I find I feel so much better than I have for days and feel up to a bracing walk down Tripolia Bazaar. It is the street filled with hardware stores and huge piles of string. There is always something wonderful hiding there and I mean to find it.
I am now fresh back from a truly India afternoon. I was offered a motorbike ride into town, which I turned down absolutely, and took a tuk tuk. After a spicy lunch in the very garish LMB restaurant I went to the delightful Muslim stone merchant. Is that the correct term for a man who sells diamonds and all manner of other delights. I was not looking for diamonds, but stones cut to my sizes. A very obliging man, well, they all are, for a price.
Then the bazaar. It was all I had hoped. Such wonderful moments, one after the other, all piled up on top of each other. First there was the Äúterracotta images of Gods salesman.Äù We were haggling over the price and he had bad breath. Not only that but he looked like a 5 foot tall version of Freddie Mercury. I really was not getting where I wanted to get with the man, and he was annoying me. It was nothing to do with his looks, more his tone and smell. Suddenly I spotted a large mosquito in silhouette, drinking his blood. This beast, that had started out transparent, was rapidly filling up with blood. I was transfixed and could not drag my eyes to his. Should I slap him hard on the face and then explain? Or should I leave him to his fate. The seconds ticked by and I could not decide what was best, so I left it. Finally, full, the mosquito flew drunkenly towards me. I clapped, and splat, strawberry jam all over my hands. He shouted at me not to kill things. (thank god I had not slapped him, then). I retorted that I did not need him to tell me what to do. I knew I did not like himÄ¶
We parted all smiley and financially happy, so that was fine.
From there I visited the stainless steel wallah, just to let him know I wanted to see him, but not right now. He is charming and hospitable. So I was given pride pf place, right in the middle of his shop, on a rickety plastic red stool with a circle of veiled Muslim women all chattering to each other about me. He started filling them in on who I was. I told him to zip it, and charmingly, he did.
From there, I thought a walk would do me good and set off down the hill past the Wind Palace. It is a nightmare walk because it is the main net for catching tourists. I think it was ten paces before I had had enough and I leapt onto the back of a horse and cart to take me back. It was delightful. He let me drive the horse! I was so thrilled. It is a charming way to move around. All the motorbike boys were hooting, all the shop keepers shouting and the sound of the clipetty clop was drowned in a chorus of hoots, jeers and whistles. But I was exhilarated. Just me and the underfed Indian horse making our way back home.
So now I am all smiley and happy. It was fun. India in the raw. I am filthy, my hands were black, my ears are ringing and my catalogue of mental images has been fully re-charged.
It was a long night, punctuated by bouts of deep and inescapable fear. I did not enjoy it and eventually rang home for solace at 2.30am. Jet lag is just such fun, that and big responsability.
I am sitting in the clothing factory, surfing their broadband, whilst waiting for a piece of clothing, due to be sent any minute to a boat for shipment to London, that is less than perfect. Two items have had to be seriously re-worked and it is a steep learning curve. It has meant that I am approaching this current experience in a much more thorough way. This is the pain of the learning curve; that no one can do it for you. Oh, how I wish they could, but truthfully I would not have it any other way. I find it stimulating and little by little I am getting good at it, I think. The worst is to be ordering more stock before I have even received or started to sell the first lot. But there is no other way. We sell more clothes than onything else and I cannot be without this stock. Months ahead of actually needing it, without knowing how busy we will be or what kind of orders we will have I must commit to numbers. This is what keeps me awake at night and lets me see how little control I have over my thinking at 2.30am.
I really wanted to bring a book on the mind with me to India but could not find it anywhere. So many opportunites to read and practice. But I am keeping up my prosperity meditation and have re-visited my supplier of Georgette Heyer novels, so all is good.
I am at a loss as to how to entertain myself in the gaps between trying on clothes samples. I still feel unwell and now tired, too, but re-visiting tourist haunts is less than stimulating. And I am trying to avoid spending large amounts of money whilst here, this time. An intersting discipline. So I will read, write and meditate. Perfect. If all goes well I will return home early. Today, the boss of the factory said we only needed one week, but previously he had said two, and with all that needs doing I cannot see that one week will work, so I have not raised my hopes. I almost feel as though I never left, that there has not been a three week stint in London, that the food it too much and the children will appear, laughing at the bedroom door. I wish it was so. It is much more fun when there is more than just me. Puskal, the hotel cook, seems to think that I will find it more interesting to eat all my meals in my room. A kind of silent control, but I am insistent that I want to be outside, in the light, and he nods and walks away to do my bidding. It is easy to see how one can become imperious here.
It seems like a blink and I am back here again. I arrived a couple of hours ago and delight of delight, there is wireless connection at the hotel. I have to sit in the owners bedroom to get it, but bedrooms here in India are not as we expect them in the West. Here they are store rooms, passages, eating parlours and much, much more.
It was very strange coming back alone. It had been so vibrant with all of us here for so long, that it took me time to get used to the space, the tidiness, and the silence.
I have a big job to do here, setting up all the new clothes, and I am not sure of numbers yet, but with serious application to spreadsheets and drawings, I will get there. Working out how to get it all in order is brain consuming and I am tired, so it is not my forte today, but little, by little I am getting there. I am going to re-draw everything tonight and then add fabrics, colours, numbers and sizes to each page. Is that the best way forward? Hard to tell.
Otherwise India is still lovely. I will write more when I have slept.